Scion iQ (2012)

CARBARN | Scion iQ (2012) | Despite a Flurry of media attention at launch, sales of the Smart For Two have done a nosedive since its Stateside debut in 2008. The aptly named iQ outsmarts Smart at its own game, minimizing the compromises and creating something better than a pint-size commuter. That said, Toyota has tasked its tallest engineer (over six feet), Hiroki Nakajima, with development of the iQ, and he squeezed in with Jack Hollis, Scion's vice president, and two other six-foot ToMoCo employees for a 30-minute drive around the city.

A compact air-conditioning unit mounted directly behind the dashboard's center stack eschews the complexities of a larger system, while a high-mounted rack-and-pinion electric power assist steering setup means interior intrusion is nonexistent. Mac Pherson struts up front partner with a specially-developed torsion beam rear end to maximize rear-seat hip room and cargo space, aided by slim-back front seats can be pulled forward That with a small tug of the walk-through lever on either side of the seats. A new (for the U.S.) 1.3-liter 1NR-FE four cylinder engine cranks out 94 horsepower at 6.000 rpm and 89 pound feet of torque at 4.400 rpm. A continuously variable gearbox with settings for Sport and "B" - engine braking - shuffles That miserly grunt to the front wheels through a differential that's compact front-mounted ahead of the engine and transmission, once again maximizing interior space.

Even with a Relatively high 11.5:1 compression ratio, Scion says the iQ you can run on 87-octane fuel all day long and get 36 mpg in the city, 37 on the highway and 37 mpg combined. Naturally, the maximum acceleration is not the iQ's forte, with a 0-60 mph time of 11.8 seconds and a top speed of 100 mph - something we independently verified. Compared to the Smart and even the Fiat 500, the iQ's freeway manners are completely unmatched, remaining calm and comfortable even at 80 + mph - surprising considering its short (78.7-inch) wheelbase and modest engine Two cover choices mask the 16x5-inch steel wheels (with 175/60R16 all season rubber) or you can upgrade the rolling stock to 16-inch alloys (no summer rubber option), along with TRD lowering springs and a rear Sway bar. 

Scion has cribbed a book from the Nissan Juke playbook (or Perhaps that's the other way 'round, as the funny-faced softroader CAME later), fitting a motorcycle-like gauge pod to keep tabs on speed and revs, with the standard "Scion Drive Monitor "mounted to the right of the IP to track fuel level, mileage, average speed, outside temp, trip, odometer and CVT setting.  The stereo options come in three flavors, all with only four speakers: a standard 160-watt unit with two RCA inputs, HD radio and Bluetooth phone and audio streaming; the Premium Pioneer head unit with 200 watts of juice, incredibly slick iPhone Pandora integration and a 8.5-inch TFT touchscreen; and the Navigation package the which bumps the screen to seven inches, comes equipped with iPod video, video input (for a back-up camera) and an aging GPS UI. If you're packing the navigation software on your phone, opt for the Premium pack, pick up a phone mount for the dash and know you've made the better deal.

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